The Brooklyn Law and Tech boys basketball team watched the postgame ceremony with open mouths and tear-stained cheeks.
The top-seeded Jets gave up the game-winning bucket with just one second left on the clock, falling 58–57 to No. 3 Walton in the Public Schools Athletic League “A” championship March 18 at Baruch College.
It was a devastating end to an historic season for Law and Tech, one the squad won’t soon forget.
“They wanted it more than us,” said Jets coach Kenny Pretlow. “My team just stopped playing; you’ve got to play defense. If you don’t play defense or stop playing defense, it’s not going to work.”
Law and Tech hit its stride — and its shots— early on, jumping out to a 17-point lead at halftime, but Walton wouldn’t go down without a fight.
In the third quarter, the Wildcats slowly chipped away at the Jets’ double-digit lead. Law and Tech took a five-point cushion into the fourth quarter and did its best to bend and not break, but that was easier said than done.
The Jets were plagued by late-game turnovers, and couldn’t pad their lead. Foul shots by Walton’s Andres Rivera made the contest a one-point game with 1:55 left.
“It’s nerves and everybody reacts badly to a big situation,” Pretlow said. “You don’t know what you’re going to get. A lot of these guys folded up, just didn’t perform.”
The Law and Tech squad was certain it had caught a when Walter Pitt drained a three-pointer from the corner, making it a four-point game with 56 seconds left. Mikko Johnson then canned a pair of free throws to push the lead to six with just 28 ticks on the clock.
Still, Walton still refused to go away. Derek Smith drained a three on the Wildcats’ ensuing possession and, suddenly, the Jets were scrambling to reset their defense.
“I said, make them drive, anything, just don’t give up a three, and we give up a three,” Pretlow said. “That makes it a one-possession game.”
Law and Tech junior Larry Moreno was fouled on the next play, but could only make one of two from the line. The Wildcats’ Rivera then scored on a runner with 9.5 seconds left to make it a one-point game.
The Jets were unable to inbound the ball after that bucket and turned it over, giving Walton one last look at the basket.
It wasn’t an easy look.
Smith threw up a desperation three-point attempt that sailed wide, but his teammate Arturo Sealy drained a put-back shot just as time expired.
The Jets were left stunned after the final buzzer went off, and walked off the court heartbroken, their championship dreams dashed.
“This is horrible,” Pretlow said. “I told them, ‘Just play the same way we’ve been playing all year.’ We didn’t do that today. We didn’t do that at all.”